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Nebraska opens session over Keystone oil pipeline project

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Summary of story from The Guardian, November 1, 2011

The state of Nebraska, USA, has opened a special session of legislature in a last effort to hinder the controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline project.

The 1,600-mile pipeline, meant to carry crude oil from the tar sands of Alberta, Canada, to the refineries of Texas, has been a major concern to environmental activists and has become a political liability for President Barack Obama.

Opponents of the pipeline are hoping this session of the legislature will find a legal means of re-routing the project away from an important source of ground water – or blocking it completely.

What happens in Nebraska could be critical as South Dakota – the state immediately north of Nebraska – said it would press TransCanada, the pipeline owner, for additional safety measures.

However, the state’s governor, David Heineman, has yet to introduce a proposal on resiting the pipeline – a lapse that had some activists concerned yesterday.

“Normally when a governor calls a special session he introduces a bill, but the governor has not done that,” said Jane Kleeb of Bold Nebraska, the campaign group leading the protests.

“We are afraid that they will hold a special session and not pass anything and say they have done their best.”

Activists have also warned that Barack Obama, who has yet to give formal approval for the project, could lose the support of young voters and environmental groups if the pipeline goes ahead.

According to Abbie Rogers, 20, a student arrested in an anti-pipeline protest at the White House last August:

“If Keystone XL goes through I think young voters are really going to have to make a decision whether or not they want to continue with an administration that seems to compromise early and often and that has done a lot that wasn’t change – or at least nothing to the extent we felt we were being promised.”

The session is expected to last at least two weeks.

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